Gastric pain or appendicitis? Here’s how to tell

Abdominal pain can stem from a myriad of issues. Previously, I wrote about the difference between gastric pain and a stomach ulcer, in which the latter can stem from recurring gastric pain or gastritis if left untreated. Recently, I’ve been receiving a number of younger patients with bad abdominal pain and many were not able to pinpoint what exactly that pain was — though several of them thought it was gastric pain or pain caused by gas. After some tests, we found out what they were experiencing was actually appendix pain, or appendicitis.

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How do I differentiate gastric pain from a stomach ulcer?

Many stomach conditions often share the same symptoms — a dull or gnawing, burning pain in the upper part of the belly, nausea, heartburn and so on. More often than not, we’re inclined to link our abdominal pain with stomach flu or gastric pain, partly because our population is used to having recurring gastric pain attacks. That and no one would actually suspect they have a stomach ulcer — at least for the majority of my patients when I give them a diagnosis.

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What happens if I get recurring gastric pain?

I’ve been asked multiple times, “Doc, is it bad if I always get gastric pain? Is having frequent gastric pain normal?” Well, the answer is no. You might think the answer to that is obvious, but many are actually unaware of the health implications frequent gastric pain brings. As a general surgeon in Singapore, I’ve noticed that the cases of gastric pain are rising, and I can only credit that to our busy lifestyles and irregular eating habits.

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Jaundice in adults: Why does it happen?

Whether you’re a parent or not, you must have heard of newborns getting jaundice and how it’s pretty normal. But jaundice in adults? How does that even happen, and is it anything serious?

Yes, I receive a handful of adult patients with jaundice — and unfortunately, jaundice in adults is often a sign of an underlying medical condition which does not improve on its own without serious side effects, unlike neonatal jaundice. Let’s find out all about adult jaundice.

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Is there a link between our sleeping habits and GERD?

Do you experience heartburn from time to time? I’ve come across many patients who assume that just because they have heartburn, they have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Relax — that is not true. While heartburn is a symptom of GERD, it is not the only symptom, nor is it always necessary to experience heartburn to be diagnosed with GERD.

In this article, I will discuss some of the myths surrounding GERD and give some tips on how to manage this condition better, including altering your sleeping position.

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Gallbladder removal: Can I still live a normal life after surgery?

There can be a lot of misinformation on the Internet regarding illnesses and surgeries. Gallbladder removal is one of them. Many patients with gallstones either panic and think of the worst case scenario because of something they’ve read online, or avoid surgery due to the fear that they might lead a lower quality of life. In this blog post, I will share some of the top myths surrounding gallstones and gallbladder removal as well as my thoughts.

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Colorectal cancer in women: Could you be mistaking your abdominal discomfort for premenstrual syndrome (PMS)?

Both women and men are at risk of developing colorectal cancer. Although men have a slightly higher risk than women (38.2% chance in men and 27.2% chance in women), it is harder to detect colon cancer in women as the symptoms are often dismissed as gynaecological or menstrual issues. These include abdominal bloating, discomfort and gas. As a trained specialist, it is relatively easy for me to distinguish between some colorectal and gynaecological symptoms, but many female patients tend to overlook those warning signs and avoid going to the doctor entirely.

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Is it true that frequent constipation results in piles?

You may have heard your mum tell you at least once not to spend too much time straining on the toilet bowl, otherwise it would result in painful piles. Mothers know best — chronic constipation is indeed one of the causes of piles, or haemorrhoids.

Haemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels in the anus and lower rectum that become enlarged and swollen due to pressure. They are felt as small, round lumps around your anus or outside the anal canal. While they sound serious, haemorrhoids are actually very common in Singapore and occur in adults from time to time.

What are the symptoms to look out for, and is surgery necessary if you have piles? Let’s find out.

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How to tell if your abdominal pain is appendicitis

When it comes to abdominal pain, appendicitis usually isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Many would automatically assume the discomfort for a bout of food poisoning, since the symptoms of both conditions are pretty similar. But unlike food poisoning, appendicitis usually rapidly worsens in a matter of hours and is considered a medical emergency.

As a general surgeon in Singapore, I’ve seen cases where patients ignore the pain or try a wait-and-see approach only to be faced with a life threatening situation. Don’t let that be you — here’s how to tell if a stomach ache is actually appendicitis and what to do should you be diagnosed with the condition.

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Does bariatric surgery reduce cancer risk?

Besides tobacco, obesity contributes to almost 40% of cancers, including kidney, liver, pancreatic, colorectal and post-menopausal breast and endometrial cancer. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity is responsible for 20% of cancer-related deaths in women and 14% in men. Surely this should mean that by reducing obesity rates, we could bring down the risk of cancer in many at-risk individuals. Currently, bariatric surgery is an effective strategy for individuals with morbid obesity who fail to lose weight despite a supervised diet and exercise program.

But does bariatric surgery, that brings about weight loss, have potential cancer prevention effects? So far, the literature demonstrates a positive link mostly in post-menopausal endometrial and breast cancers only. Why is this so? Let’s find out more.

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